Redistricting Gave Republicans a 7.5% Headstart in House Elections

Yesterday, I wrote about the Republican sketchy claim of having won a mandate in the House of Representatives where they will hold about a 40 seat edge despite losing the popular vote. I explained how redistricting process undermines Democratic representation by wasting Democratic votes in huge super majorities.

Today, as an exercise I tried to quantify how big an electoral advantage the Republicans are starting with for the rest of the decade thanks to the 2010 redistricting. I created a spreadsheet with the latest election returns for each of the 435 House races and sorted them by the difference between the (leading) Democrat and (leading) Republican. In order to gain a majority, Democrats would have to win 218 seats.

Suppose we magically added 7.2% to the Democratic totals in each district across the nation. In that case, the Democrats would have won the first 217 races on my spreadsheet, the Republicans would still have won the last 217 races on my spreadsheet (although by a smaller margin), and everything would depend on the result of the final race (Florida’s 16th Congressional District) which would then be a dead heat between Fitzgerald and Buchanan.

In this thought experiment the House of Representatives would be precisely in balance, but the Democrats would have increased their margin in the popular vote by 7.2% from the actual value of 0.3% (48.5% to 48.8%) to a hypothetical value of 7.5%.

When the Democrats need to beat the Republicans by 7.5% just to break even, there is something seriously wrong with our democratic process!  

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  1. kenmyers says

    Thank you for this elegantly simple demonstration of a problem that most voters know (but few elected incumbents admit) that we have.

    Pennsylvania is a particularly galling example, with less than half of the voters electing two-thirds of our delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives.

  2. burrowsx says

    I wonder if I can regress you back to a previous lifetime, when in the euphoria of the 2008 presidential election, Barack Obama replaced Howard Dean and chairman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) with Tim Kaine, then governor of Virginia. Kaine (and presumably Rahm Emanuel) then proceeded to dismantle Dean’s 50 state strategy — the only winning strategy for capturing Congress which had developed since the Reagan presidency. Not only did this move dispense with hundreds of local Democratic operatives, and the local intelligence it provided to the DNC, it substituted Kaine — a chairman so clueless he could not win a public relations battle with Strip Club Michael Steele. Weeks could pass, and the DNC would issue no policy statements, nor provide talking points to answer Republican challenges. Kaine apparently had no clue about the importance of legislative elections in 2009-2010 leading up the decennial redistricting plans to be based on the upcoming census. What was worse, the electoral braintrust of Axelrod, Plouffe, and Emanuel apparently had no clue either. The selfish nature of their electoral strategy — to elect or re-ekect President Barack Obama, and devil take the hindmost — became abundantly clear, as Republicans swept the Congress, and many state legislatures, in a virtually unopposed campaign to shape the districting of legislative seats for a decade to come.

    Coincidentally, money was pulled from campaigns like Pennsylvania’s Joe Sestak in the last days of the 2010 campaign, so that a flood of money could be devoted to maintaining Democratic “leaders” like Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. I have since refused to contribute to DNC national campaigns like the DCCC and the DSCC.

    Typically, having delegated the mundane aspects of electoral politics, Obama discovered too late he had been given lousy advice. Emanuel left the administration to become mayor of Chicago, and Kaine left the DNC to campaign for the Virginia Senate. Axelrod and Plouffe started planning for the 2012 presidential campaign. The damage had been done, however.

    The redistricting battles were not lost in the legislatures, after the 2010 sweep. They were lost in failing to prepare for the mid-term elections that we did not have to lose, had we cared to stay organized, with a DNC chairman who played to win for an invigorated national Democratic Party.

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